Subject: Day 16, March 6 – South Georgia Island
We spent the night at anchor at Gold Harbour and early this morning the ship moved on to St. Andrews Bay. This is South Georgia’s largest King Penguin colony and one of the largest elephant seal breeding beaches. It is hard to believe a King Penguin colony larger than the one we saw yesterday.
We landed at St Andrews Bay in the rain, many stayed on the boat because it was raining, but we are glad we went ashore because the sun came out and it cleared up about an hour after we landed. There are over 300,000 King Penguins on St Andrew according to the expedition staff, and I believe it because there were penguins as far as you can see in all directions. Interspersed amongst the penguins are hundreds of fur seals and about 100 elephant seals. The elephant seals are amazing, the adult males are huge, about 8,000 pounds each, and the one year old babies are 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. The babies make our Florida Manatees look small. The young male babies were showing their prowess by standing up on their tail fins and chest butting each other. They reminded me of looking at an NFL defensive line before the big game. You could hear the slapping of the elephant seals chests together. I have about 200 pictures of King Penguins. They come up to you and almost beg you to take their picture. We came back to the boat on the first Zodiac back and the sea was flat with clear skies. It is about a 15 minute Zodiac trip and right after we got back on the boat, it started raining again and the seas started white capping making the rest of the Zodiac trips not near as pleasant. The weather here really does change by the minute.
In the afternoon we took the Zodiacs into Grytviken, an old whaling station that now hosts a British scientific group of about 17. Last night they were all invited on board ship for a BBQ Dinner of salmon and Argentina beef. Grytviken is also the place that Ernest Shackleton, known as “The Boss” is buried in a small cemetery with some of the whalers lost at the whaling station in the early to mid 1800’s. Now I knew very little about Shackleton before this trip but the Brits on board sure did. Shackleton made his place in history by being a failure. He tried twice to make the South Pole and both times failed, but was able after two years to save all of his men through heroic efforts. Just by chance we happen to have a direct descendent of Shackleton on board and he led us in a toast to “The Boss” at Shackleton’s grave. Shaclelton being a great Irishman liked his scotch so the ship provided a couple of bottles of scotch for the toast. I am not particularly fond of scotch, but refuse to turn down a free drink so I enthusiastically joined in the toast and even though it was cold and windy around the grave, we soon felt a warm glow come over us. They told the story of the only grave that the fur seals all climb on in winter is Shackleton’s, and the reason is all of the whisky he consumed in his life still keeps them warm. My type of man. The quote on Shackleton’s grave is “I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize.” A quote from Robert Browning. All and all another great day in Antarctica.
More to follow,
Tom & Holly